Connecticut cruises over Western CarolinaNov 15, 2008 - 4:30 AM STORRS, Connecticut (Ticker) -- Connecticut got off to a fast start in hopes of putting last season behind them.
Hasheem Thabeet had 23 points, 17 rebounds and five blocks as second-ranked Connecticut cruised to an 81-55 victory over Western Carolina on Friday.
Jerome Dyson scored 23 points and Jeff Adrien had 14 and seven rebounds for the Huskies (1-0), who were ousted in the first round of the NCAA Tournament by San Diego for the first time since 1979 last season.
Western Carolina (0-1) missed its first seven shots as Connecticut scored the game's first 13 points less than 4 1/2 minutes into the game.
"I thought the first six or seven minutes we were really, really good defensively," Huskies coach Jim Calhoun said. "I think it set a good tone for the game. We had a couple of let-ups, and the less of those we can have, and the more they can realize who they are - regardless of who they think they're going to be as a basketball team."
The Huskies led by as many as 25-7 with less than 8 1/2 minutes left and settled for a 40-25 lead at the break.
The Catamounts were still hanging around early in the second half before the Huskies used an 11-0 run over a five-minute stretch to build up a 64-38 advantage with 8:14 remaining.
Thabeet, who averaged 10.5 points and 7.9 rebounds as a sophomore, shot 7-of-11 from the floor and 9-of-13 from the free-throw line.
"I'm trying to put numbers up every night," the 7-3 junior said. "The whole thing is a team effort though. I'm grateful that my teammates have been getting me the ball. I've come a long way since my freshman and sophomore year."
Huskies senior guard A.J. Price, who suffered a torn ACL in UConn's 70-69 setback in the NCAAs, missed all three of his shot attempts and had four assists in his first game back.
He was ejected with 7:29 left in the game after punching Catamounts guard Joey Parker, while battling for position.
"There was frustration building up the whole game," Price said. "I just let it get the best of me."
"A.J. didn't have it from the beginning," Calhoun said. "He had sprained his ankle ... and he just couldn't get it going. They said he threw a punch. If that's the case, then I'm surprised, number one, but they threw him out for a flagrant foul. And they did go to the monitor, so they must have seen something."
Brandon Giles scored 16 points to lead Western Carolina, which shot 34 percent (21-of-62) from the floor.
It was the 18th consecutive home-opening victory for Connecticut.
- NCAA BB
FINAL 1ST 2ND TOTAL
--- --- -----
WESTRN CAROLINA 25 30 55
CONNECTICUT (2) 40 41 81 FINAL
Nov 14 9:31 PM
- NCAA BB
WESTRN CAROLINA 25
(2) CONNECTICUT 40 HALFTIME
Nov 14 8:41 PM
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